Album Review by Mark Bayross
“Operatica”, as the name suggests, is the fusion of opera and electronica, an idea which UK-born and New York-based musician Lord Vanger (possibly not his real name…) thought would be pioneering until, a few weeks after he dreamt it up, he went to see Luc Besson’s film THE FIFTH ELEMENT and realised someone else had beaten him to it.
Nonetheless, he went on to record OPERATICA O – VOL. ONE with world-renowned soprano Maureen O’ Flynn. It became a bit of a classic and – after E-Magine Entertainment CEO Christoph Ruecker suggested adding a Middle Eastern flavour to the sound – this second album has seen the light of day.
As a result, OPERATICA: SHINE is even more ambitious than its predecessor. Maureen O’Flynn appears once again, on the title track (and single), a song that Lord Vanger says he wrote specifically for her. In addition, he has recruited Ying Huang, a young diva most famous for her starring role in the big screen version of “Madam Butterfly”, and Albanian Inva Mula, the very same opera singer from “The Fifth Element”.
Their respective contributions (Grieg’s SOLVEIG’S SONG and Debussy’s PASSEPIED; and the lead track, MON AMOUR, from Rodrigo’s “Concierto De Aranjuez” respectively) are the combination of haunting and bombastic that you would expect from singers of this calibre.
Elsewhere, Lord Vanger has made good on his intention to add a Middle Eastern vibe: STANDING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD adds a Turkish flute to trip-hop beats, while LOST IN SOME ELSE’S DREAM – also an original composition – combines Indian mantra with drum & bass. Taking things a stage further, there are also two contributions from Iranian singer Shakila – the spine-tingling classical Persian folk songs KOBAB and KHODAYA.
Perhaps the most radical move of all has been the inclusion of JE CROIS ENTENDRE ENCORE, from Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers”, sung not by a soprano, but by tenor John Osborn. Occurring two-thirds of the way through the album, it adds variety to an already diverse album.
With additional production from programmer Grooveshaman, who, according to Lord Vanger, “tightened the beats”, OPERATICA: SHINE is a mesmerising collision of classical arrangements, Eastern atmospherics and futuristic electronics. Bizarrely, there’s actually very little opera in it, but the result is very Blade Runner.